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1945-1954 - A Townie & a Mother

Betty's husband was due Home Leave every 21/2 years, but his home leave was cancelled for the duration of the War - they had "local leave" instead.  So on 4th September 1945, Gervas and Betty and their (by now) four children left Northern Rhodesia by train to Capetown, where on 10th September they joined the RMS Mauretania. The Mauretania had sailed on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York on 17 June 1939, only ten weeks before War broke out.  During the War she served as a troop carrier, and was armed - she had temproary gun turrets mounted above the promenade deck. This journey had started in New Zealand; women and children were ten to a cabin, seperated from the men who were in dormitories of 60. According to Betty, she carried over 5000 passengers. Betty & her family arrived back in England, in Liverpool, on 24th September, exaclty nine years to the day from the day they had left after their wedding.

[Note: Her parents were Mum and Dad; his parents were Mummy and Daddy]


Her account of the journey - can be found >here<


Gervas had to return to work, so flew back on 22nd February 1946.  Betty then left the elder two children in the care of Gervas's parents for the next three years, and on 6th June she sailed back to Africa on the Carnavon Castle with the two younger ones, then aged 3 and 1.


Gervas was now posted to Kitwe, a Copperbelt town, quite a change from the out-stations where he had been posted all his career until his brief previous posting in the Secretariat in the Capital, Lusaka.


In 1947, His Majesty King George V1, his wife, Queen Elizabeth, and their two daughters, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret visited Southern African, and during their visit they also visited Southern Rhodesia, and also Livingstone, in Northern Rhodesia.  Livingstone had been the Capital of the country until 1935, so was an important town.  It was still the Judicial Capital, the home of the High Court and the Chief Justice.

It is only seven miles from the world famous "Natural Wonder of the World", the Victoria Falls (twice as wide as Niagara, and one & a half times as wide).

Betty was now a Guide Captain aged almost 30, and mother of four, living in Kitwe, where her husband, Gervas, was the Government’s District Commissioner, Kitwe. 

"The Copperbelt" is a collection of several towns, each with its own copper mine, next to the country's Northern Border, It is the country's centre of population.  The caiital of the country is Lusaka, located roughly in the centre.

Betty's elder two children - Gill, nearly ten, and Robin, almost 8 - were living in England with their father's parents.

Betty travelled down to Livingtone with a train-load of Guides (and Scouts!) for the celebration of the Royal Visit.

Her diay account for 8th to 14th April can be found >here<

In 1960, when Betty’s husband was Her Majesty’s Resident Commissioner in Barotseland (a province of Northern Rhodesia), the Queen at the time of that Royal Visit, by now Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, paid a State Visit, and stayed with Betty for two nights. 

In 1997, the Princess Elizabeth at the time of the Royal Visit, by now Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, made Betty a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.). 



Betty & Gervas took their two littlest boys, then 6 and 3, back to England on leave; they left Kitwe by train on 10 June 1948, and sailed frrom Durban on the RMS Llangibby Castle on 23 June and arrived at Tilbury on 23 July.

They collected their elder children and sailed back to Africa, leaving Southampton on the RMS Athlone Castle on 25 November.  They docked at Capetown on 9 December, and took the train back to Kitwe, arriving there on 14 December.

On 2 June 1949, Gervas started a new posting as Deputy P.C. in Ndola.

On 17 February 1950, Betty's mother arrived, and the two of them then did a Tour of N. & S. Rhodesia, South Africa, Swaziland and Basutoland, arriving back at Ndola on 31 March, followed by a brief trip into the Belgian Congo.


On 3 December 1951, Gervas was posted to Broken Hill.

The following Sunday, Betty wrote in her diary


Sunday, 09 December 1951

Fine, heavy shower in Afternoon.

No asthma!

To communion at 8, very nicely taken by Mr. Monday who really seemed to love the words he was saying & used them beautifully.

Went to call on Mr & Mrs Roy Welensky.  He is an Engine Driver & is also Elected member for Broken Hill & is Leader for the Opposition in LegCo. A most clever & intelligent man, & a moderate one, for although a most vigorous Union man he is genuinely more keen on the Welfare of the State than of the individual. Mrs. A homely person, nursing her little only grandson; her daughter Mrs. Bridge there too, also a Col. Stirling from S.R.

Welensky told us how he had had a crack at Griffiths, the ex. Sec. of State for the Colonies, by telling him that it was a pity the Labour Opposition was now using Colonial Affairs as a political party “pawn”, & that now they were no longer in power they had lost their sense of responsibility; that they were saying things that were likely to do harm to relations between black & white, but they don’t have to live here.  He told them they were “driving a wedge between black & white for political ends”.

Typed G.’s bibliography of books on N.R..

Unpicked curtain rings off seven curtains & replaced them with bigger ones, helped by children.

Gardeneed, & G. mowed.


On 24 May, 1952, Gervas was posted as Provincial Commissioner to Livingstone, the capital of the Southern Province.



From Betty's diary - she was staying on the Copperbelt


Thursday 9 October, 1952

…… So we discovered that Mr Lallemand (the ugly little Belgian architect) was going to catch the same plane, & he took me to Ndola.  We stopped at Luansimba corner to pick up Anne Penstone’s puppy to go to Livingstone & I looked after it & it was allowed to sit on the seat beside me on the plane instead of going in the luggage hold.

Had lunch at the airport, 1 o’cock plane to Lusaka, ½ hr. wait there.

Roy Welensky was there, just back from Canada & now on his way to Salisbury.  He’s immensely big & heavy, a huge man:  he teased me by asking if all the luggage that came off the plane was mine – so I said- “Well, most of it; you see, I can take a lot because *I* am not over-weight” which made him roar with laughter, good fellow…..

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